A dangerous criminal who repeatedly battered a man about the head with an iron bar has been told he will spend at least eight a half years behind bars.
Handing down the indeterminate sentence to James Greer at Antrim Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, Judge Alastair Devlin told him he was assessing him as a dangerous criminal given the "brutal, sustained and merciless" assault he launched on Anthony McCrystal, and his criminal record.
He warned Greer, who turned 30-years-old last Saturday, that even when he has served a minimum of eight and half years in jail, it will be a matter for the parole commissioners if and when he is safe to be released and under what licence conditions.
At the end of his trial last April Greer, from Rathkyle in Antrim, was convicted of trying to murder 50-year-old Mr McCrystal on June 6 2011.
The jury who convicted him heard how Mr McCrystal was seen in "an agitated state" walking through the Doury Road housing estate in Ballymena before confronting Greer with a metre long metal bar.
Greer was struck once with the bar but having taken it from Mr McCrystal, he launched what the judge described as "unquestionably a brutal, shocking, despicable" attack, landing multiple blows on his unconscious victim's head, face and body while holding the bar in both hands and swinging it downwards with "full force".
The attack was only stopped when a member of the public intervened and pushed Greer away.
Mr McCrystal, the court heard, sustained devastating injuries which have left him needing around the clock care including multiple fractures to his skull and cheek bones, contusions and bleeding on his brain which caused a stroke, the loss of sight in his left eye, limited movement in his left arm and hand and aphasia, which causes severe communication problems.
Speaking outside the court on Monday, Mr McCrystal's sisters Theresa, Kathleen, Bernadette, Bridgeen and Claire welcomed the sentence handed down by the judge and said they were "pleased" at the outcome.
"Tony didn't deserve that, nobody deserves what that man done, but we are pleased with the sentence," said Kathleen.